San Francisco's board of supervisors voted 10-1 Tuesday to ban plastic bags from supermarkets and pharmacies. The law kicks in in six months, and will require stores to use paper or degradable plastic bags instead. The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized in favor of the legislation on Tuesday. In part, the column sings the praises of degradable plastics:
The California Grocers Association has put up a vigorous resistance to the regulation, arguing that it would be confusing and costly for consumers. The grocers have been threatening to go back to paper bags if the ordinance passes. But after hearing the arguments of both sides, it seems to us far more likely that consumers will be demanding the compostable bags once they learn of their advantages over the petroleum-based "throwaway" plastic bags. Among the superior attributes of the biodegradable bags, which are typically made of starches from potatoes and corn: -- They're stronger. "The days of double-bagging your loaf of bread would be over," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, author of the compostable bag ordinance. -- They can go straight into the green recycling bin. They would be clearly marked as biodegradable. -- They're versatile. Today, far too much food waste heads to the landfill because of what some recycling advocates call the "ick factor." With a biodegradable bag, you could scoop the food scraps into the bag, then, quickly and neatly, plunk it all into the green bin. -- They're environmentally friendly. Plastic bags are a huge nuisance: they pose a threat to marine life, they gum up recycling machines and they consume landfill space.Perhaps this is the wave of the future. It will be incumbent on San Francisco to set up an infrastructure to collect and compost these bags, otherwise there's not much advantage to using them. Who do you think the city will expect to finance such a collection infrastructure?